A former Sandia National Laboratories employee who allegedly swindled more than $2 million from the federal government pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
It was part of a plea bargain that Carla Sena, a former contracting official at the Albuquerque, N.M.-based lab, agreed to with the U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico, according to court papers filed Tuesday.
The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, plus three years of supervised release, according to the plea agreement. The money laundering charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine, plus three years of supervised release.
Sena agreed to the plea to avoid going to trial on the three counts of wire fraud, one count of major fraud, and seven counts of money laundering with which she was indicted Nov. 14. Those charges combined carried a maximum sentence of 190 years imprisonment, plus fines.
In the plea agreement, the prosecution noted that Sena’s lack of prior criminal history, combined with other factors, might merit a sentence substantially lower than the maximum: around four to five years. The presiding judge in the case, M. Christina Armijo, has final say on the sentence and is not bound by the terms of the plea deal.
Sena was a contracting official at Sandia from 2006 through 2017. In 2011, prosecutors allege, she began a scheme to steal from the federal government by using her position in the lab’s procurement office to steer a contract to a moving company she created in 2010. Through 2016, the company allegedly collected some $2.3 million in illicitly obtained contract revenue, according to court documents.
The court had not set a date for a sentencing at deadline Wednesday for Weapons Complex Morning Briefing. Sena was arrested Nov. 15 and signed the plea agreement Nov. 22.